What You Need to Know about Roaming-free Europe All posts

What You Need to Know about Roaming-free Europe

If you are a frequent traveler in Europe, you are most probably very excited about 15 June 2017. This is the date that "Roam like at Home" will come into effect and the roaming fees in Europe will be abolished. Long in the making, it seems that European travelers can finally relax and not be worried about getting a huge phone bill after using their phone abroad.
Source: Your Europe (07.06.2017)

This has been long in the making. Since 2007, the European Commission has been actively trying to reduce roaming fees in Europe and first proposed legislation to end these charges altogether. As a result, in 2015 the European Parliament and the Council voted for termination of roaming surcharges for those who travel periodically in the EU. According to this legislation, all European travelers should pay domestic prices when traveling starting 15 June 2017. With this day approaching, we had to look into the details of how this will work in practice. Turns out, not as well as it is in theory. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What Countries Are Included?

The deal concerns the 28 countries that are members of the European Union plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein. Switzerland is not included as it is not a member of the EU. The UK is a part of the agreement for now, but whether it will stay like that depends on the Brexit negotiations. It is confirmed that "Roam like at Home" will have no implications for other countries in Europe that are not a part of the EU.

Is it really free?

Here’s where the interesting part starts. Because the honest answer to this question is “It depends”. It also depends on quite many things that you need to carefully research and consider:
  • Many telecom operators are trying to opt out altogether. According to New Europe, operators in a few European countries are taking advantage of the loopholes that can be found in the regulation. Companies that are able to prove that they cannot cover their actual costs while providing free roaming services, can be allowed by national regulators to continue imposing surcharges for the services their clients use outside their home country. The list of the operators that chose to take advantage of this option includes big telecom operators in Belgium, Finland, Estonia, Belgium, Poland, Ireland.
  • Some are offering packages that are cheaper but not roaming-free. Even if your telecom operator decided to follow the EU regulation, there are still some issues their clients are facing. In many countries, users had to find out that the only way for them to get a free roaming deal was to change their contract for a more expensive one that can include such an option. Unfortunately, this also often means they need to commit to that particular operator for at least a year.
  • There’s a limited period of time that you can use your phone abroad without being charged extra. This aspect has been established by the European Commission itself and does seem to be pretty fair. Frankly, if you were hoping to sign up with an operator from a country different than that of your residence in order to get a better deal, it will not be possible. The general rule is that you cannot spend more time abroad than in the country where you. In case that happens, your telecom operator has every right to start charging you for roaming. 
What can you do if things go wrong?

In order to protect European citizens from aggressive roaming charges that some operators apply, the volume of internet data you can use abroad is capped to 50 euro. Unless agreed otherwise in your cellphone contract, you will receive a notification when you have reached 80% of this limit and be automatically disconnected when it is reached. That way, you are protected from any surprises at the end of the month.

In the case that your phone bill is higher that 50 euro or there are any charges you think should not be there, you can always contact your national regulatory authority that has the power to resolve such disputes.

What does it mean for onoff users?

“Roam like home” is yet another milestone in the history of the onoff App. When the regulation will come into effect this upcoming week, those of our users who have a roaming-free package from their operator can start using onoff when traveling in Europe. This means that you can get an onoff Number from the country you will be traveling to this summer and later use it during your trip. Having a local number from the moment you arrive at the airport in a new country without having to pay extra fees—pretty great, huh?

Although the goal of living in roaming-free Europe is not fully accomplished yet, we have to recognize the progress that the telecom industry is making in the last few years. We might not be there yet, but we are certainly on the way!

Marta @ onoff

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